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December 18th, 2017.
We who are inserted in the kpop world and even some of those who are not fans of the genre came to know his name.
Yes, it was tragic, heartbreaking and simply unbelievable. I remember being on my way back from my internship with my head full speed of the kitchen shift when I learned through my little kpop group on Whatsapp about what has come to happen.
I vividly recall thinking to myself "oh, this is probably fake news...like Jongas would ever do that." I honestly could not grasp the reality.
After hearing on BBC News and actually starting to get what was happening, I broke down. I went to my room and the only thing I could do was listen to "Tell Me What to Do" by SHINee on repeat for three days straight because the lyrics of the song were exactly what I wanted to tell him.
SHINee vocalized everything I needed to say to him. When they sing:
"These days, I don’t know, I don’t know you
You look like you gave up on a lot of things
But I hear your silent scream
I’ll go to you first
At the end of a different road
I’ll wipe your cheeks that are
wet with tears and ask you
Tell me what to do (I hope you’ll tell me first)
Tell me what to do (Don’t cry no more)
Tell me what to do (If your heart can see me)
Tell me what to do (Don’t cry no more)"
For me, the song had some sort of healing power because it could translate all of my emotions. Which at that moment was anger.
I was mad. I could not understand him.
Before I put down the next words, I have to say that I am very aware of how depression affects people in a very particular way. Each and everyone who suffers from it and has to struggle day by day to keep on going with it. I am not trying to make it a minor problem, I am just trying to convey to you what I felt those past days.
When I say I didn't understand him, I mean to say that I was practically blaming him, accusing him of giving up when it was possible to prevent it. I also had depression when I was younger and was able to manage it with help. Of course, it was not easy, but I did it with tons of helping hands, especially from my mother. But then again, that was just me being selfish because I could not deal with him being gone.
SHINee wasn't the first kpop group I ever listened to, but they were the reason why I got head over heels for it. They were my first love, my first fandom 8 years ago. That means I practically grew up with them because they are my age.
I remember being a much honest and hardcore fan on the first three years as a SHAWOL (fandom name), but the kpop industry produced many good groups at that time and I wanted to consume all of them. SHINee was still in my heart, I was there for every comeback, I watched every DVD and listened to every song they released. However, I had to share my time and dedication with other groups (mainly B.A.P, Beast and Infinite). Therefore, when all that happened I felt that I did not take care of him. I did not pay attention to him. I only consumed Jongas as a product, as an escape from hardships of my daily life. So when the said song comes to those verses:
"I took you for granted
But just thinking of you not being there
I don’t want to go through that,
my world would crumble"
It feels real. That is the very reason why everytime I hear the song it makes me terrified. I felt very guilty.
So at this point, I was angry and had the weight of the world on my shoulders because of my Jongas. Finally, I had the courage to read his goodbye letter. Everything was so dark. I wasn't angry anymore. I was devastated. I was feeling more guilty than before.
A few days later, Key, who is irrevocably my bias from day one, posted a letter to his beloved departed friend on his Instagram account. I swear it was like redemption in form of words. He states:
"...But you did everything you wanted and in the end, you made the decision and you left first...it was really hard at first, but after spending time with only you for the past three days, I think I might understand how you felt."
That was what I needed to do. Spend some time with the real Jonghyun. Not the idol. The person he was. Because there was nothing else anyone could do about the matter because it was done. I went again through his life, through old interviews, his songs and I realized, it was all there the whole time. Then coming back to the final letter, I understood a bit and accepted it as well. He wanted peace, he wanted it all to stop, and now I have the courage to say that I respect his decision.
Time passed. I can listen to his songs, I can see his face on old SHINee material. The pain is a bit numb. And SHINee will forever remain as a five-member group, but they have already stepped into a new era. Taemin has reassured to the world he is an artist. A full and complete artist. My bias has become a monster. His potential is fully revealed through the live stages and as a solo act. He eats me up with every word and gesture. Onew took a different direction and is now complying his mandatory military service and dear Minho is pursuing his acting career. They have just produced one of the best KPOP albums in the history with The Story of Light trilogy. I am not just saying it because I am a fan. The album has weight, it has depth, it is innovation, the vocals are amazing (even because trying to replace one of the most powerful voices in the world is not an easy task and instead of giving everything to Onew, they thrived, they pushed themselves to make the best and deliver a masterpiece) and this is something only SHINee can pull off.
Jonghyun taught me more than he could ever imagine. He changed me forever. He thought me not to be so selfish and to put myself into other people shoes without any judgment. He taught me not to take people I love for granted. He even taught me to think twice before fighting on Facebook (or anywhere really) for stupid things. He is beautiful in every possible way. He is such a sensible artist and such a caring person that he left a deep mark in everyone who knew him and that will come to know him. He will forever be loved and missed.
Believe me when I say we the last thing I want is to make Jonghyun a suicide symbol. I want you to love him for who he is and enjoy what is now his legacy.
I don't know what the future will hold for the group and us SHAWOLS. But I certainly cannot wait to see. I want to be here. I am ready to love SHINee as it is now. With Onew, Key, Minho, and Taemin.
You did well.